Padres manager Andy Green said Saturday that Bethancourt will start as a relief pitcher but could be used at other positions in the lineup.
"That's the way we're looking at him primarily right now," Green told reporters, according to MLB.com. "The eighth bullpen arm, which, when you look at our schedule, is incredibly necessary. He gives us a flexibility that no other bullpen arm can do, which is pinch-hit capabilities and cover the field capability."
Bethancourt, who has played four major league seasons as a catcher, made two pitching appearances for the Padres in 2016.
The first of his stints on the mound came May 31 during a blowout loss to the Seattle Mariners. He walked two batters, hit another and recorded two outs. On June 14, Bethancourt pitched one inning against the Miami Marlins and picked up his first career strikeout while surrendering a hit and a walk.
He played 12 games in the outfield as well as his traditional catcher duties. He hit .228 with six homers and 25 RBIs.
Bethancourt, 25, pitched in the winter league in his native Panama during the offseason.
"You've got to be ready for any situation at any time," Bethancourt said. "I've known since last year my role was going to be different: pitching, catching, playing the outfield, pinch hitter. So I see myself just trying to be ready and prepared for anything anytime."
Bethancourt finished spring training allowing two runs on four hits and four walks in 9⅔ innings.
"As far as I'm concerned, the first two months of our schedule are as tough a two months of a schedule as I've ever seen in baseball," Green said. "Two days off from April 3 to May 20, so you need bullpen arms. Christian gives us the ability to navigate that ... he's got to throw the ball well, and he's got to perform. But up till now, there's been a lot of things to like."